Jabra’s New ANC Earbuds Are Better Than AirPods Pro
Jabra’s elite Bluetooth headphone line has been one of my favorites for years. But while the competition has become more intense and headphones offer more features for less cost, Jabra lacked one big thing: active noise reduction. The Elite 85t at 230T with ANC is here, and after using these headphones for a couple of weeks, the noise cancellation and battery life are seriously impressive. So impressive that I would say I love her more than others.
There are also other very good Bluetooth buds with ANC! The AirPods pro with 250 Apple And the QuietComfort with 280 B from Bose are two solid options. But, look, the AirPods and the QuietComfort look really strange in the ear. The Elite 85t are less invasive and also cost less. There are some drawbacks that I will address after. But for the money, they may be the best ANC headphones you can buy.
The Elite 85t features 12mm drivers upgraded from the Elite 75t’s 6mm speakers and six microphones-two microphones on each side for improved call quality and one on each button for ANC. (More information about phone calls in a minute.)
Active noise cancellation is very, very good. I was walking outside while a gardener was mowing a lawn, and although I could still hear the lawnmower faintly, that didn’t detract from the podcast I was listening to. The transparency mode, which you can activate by tapping on the left listener or switching it in Jabra’s Sound+ app, is quite natural. I used it while running to Los Angeles to avoid being crushed by cars and dodging pedestrians, and I felt like I was walking around with nothing in my ears. I turned off transparency mode on windy days so as not to blow my eardrum, but other than that I loved it.
You can adjust the ANC levels in the Sound + app if you’d rather not have it at full throttle. The Jabra app is one of the best I’ve used for Bluetooth headphones because it provides granular control over your audio. You can take a hearing test so Jabra can adjust an EQ setting for you, or you can choose a preset if you prefer a little more bass, for example. I have always preferred the audio quality of Jabra headphones to AirPods, and the same goes for the recent generation.
The biggest problem regarding the ANC of the Elite 85t is the fact that Jabra has just launched a firmware update for the Elite 75T and Elite Active 75T from last year, which introduces a digital version of the ANC. I installed the update on my Elite Active 75T, and although the ANC quality is not at the level of the 85t (because it’s technically not ANC), it still does a much better job of blocking noise than it did before the update. My only complaint is that the version of ANC you get in older headphones has a much more artificial transparency mode, which I found annoying.
When it comes to phone calls, I always prefer Apple’s regular, non-professional AirPods over other Bluetooth headphones. I think their more open fit allows me to understand myself better. The Jabras also didn’t do a great job of filtering ambient noise when I was walking in a park with my mom during a call. In some places, she had to ask me to repeat, even though I couldn’t really hear the background noise she was hearing.
The fit of the Elite 85t is also not perfect. The headphones have been redesigned from the last Elite 75T with a semi-open shape and oval ear gels. They are also 2 mm larger than the Elite 75T. The difference was noticeable. The Elite 75T provides a perfect seal in my ear—no other Bluetooth headphone fits as well as you. The 85t doesn’t fit the same way, and although I’ve swapped out new ear gels to personalize the feel, I’ve still been messing around with the headphones to keep putting them in my ear during the race. I do the same with the AirPods Pro, which also do not suit me. The fit of the headphones is incredibly personal, so you might not experience it, but I wish the Elite 85t would keep the same seal as the 75T.
If you’re still choosing between the AirPods Pro and the Elite 85t, there are some other notable features. The first is the ability of the Elite 85t to stay paired with multiple devices at the same time. AirPods Pro can connect to multiple Apple devices, but Jabras can connect to any Bluetooth device. I have them currently paired with my iPhone and my Peloton, so I can insert the in my ears and you start a ride on the bike, then pick up my phone and continue playing a podcast, and do all this without them diving into the settings or anything other than just putting the headphones in my ears. It works almost too well-at one point I got the Jabras to listen to something on my phone without realizing my husband was using the pack, and his class audio immediately started playing in my ears. (I found it hilarious; he wasn’t too happy.)
Then there is the battery life, which is excellent. I’ve been using the Elite 85t for three weeks, with daily workouts, a handful of long phone calls, and listening to podcasts on long walks, and the matter is now at 50%. Jabra promises up to 5.5 hours of battery life in the buttons themselves, and up to 25 hours with ANC always on (and 31 hours without) when stored in the powered box between applications. The AirPods Pro offer 4.5 hours of battery life on the headphones and up to 24 hours when charged inside the matter. The Elite 85t’s powered box can’t be juiced wirelessly, but it does support USB-C—and honestly, you won’t charge it that much anyway, so it doesn’t matter.
Apart from the fit, the biggest drawback for me is the fact that the Elite 85t is not technically sweatproof. With an IPX4 rating, you can resist splashing water, but dipping into the sweat from day to day is probably not a good idea. The AirPods Pro also have an IPX4 rating, the same goes. But Jabra usually follows its basic elite headphones every year with an active model a few months after. The Elite Active 75T has all the same features as the Elite 75T, but is rated IP57-basically they are waterproof. I expect Jabra will do the same this year, so if you need a pair of sports headphones, you might want to wait until the Elite Active 85t drops.
If you don’t mind that there is no perfect seal, the Elite 85t are my favorite Bluetooth headphones with ANC. The combination of active noise reduction on Bose, excellent sound and extremely customizable audio profiles through the Jabra app puts these headphones in a class just above the rest.